Japan would benefit from a proposed nuclear energy deal with Russia by gaining access to Moscow’s advanced fast-breeder reactor technology and uranium enrichment services, the atomic energy chief said Monday.
Shinsuke Kondo said negotiations, agreed to in February, reflect growing Japanese satisfaction with Russian moves to separate its nuclear bureaucracy into separate military and civilian areas.
“Russia’s nuclear energy world in the past was one solid unit,” said Kondo, chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. “There’s been a great effort on the Russian side to divide these two functions.”
Kondo said he didn’t know whether a deal could be concluded by the end of the year.
Japan adheres to a strict nonnuclear weapons policy and only cooperates internationally in nonmilitary uses of nuclear technology. Russia’s separation of the two functions would allow Japan to cooperate with the country more closely on nuclear energy issues.
The government has ambitious plans for the nuclear power industry. Japan now has 53 plants that produce more than 30 percent of its electricity, and the government wants to increase that to 40 percent by 2030.
Japan is also placing its bets on so-called fast-breeder reactors, which produce plutonium that can then be reused as fuel. Kondo said Japan hopes to start switching to that technology in 2050.
Russia could help with that transition. Kondo said Japan could use advanced Russian fast-breeder technology, and the government also wants to get involved in Russian uranium enrichment services. Japan is dependent on imported uranium.
“We also want to diversify our supplier base,” Kondo said.
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